IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP)Caitlin Clark scored a season-high 33 points and No. 4 Iowa pulled away late to defeat Belmont 73-62 on Sunday.
The Hawkeyes (4-1), who came into the game ranked fourth nationally in scoring at 94.2 points, were held to a season low in scoring. Besides Clark, no other Iowa player scored in double figures.
”They really slowed the game down, which is why our score was so low,” Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said. ”We didn’t have as many possessions in the game as we usually have. That’s a good way to defend us – we can’t score if we don’t have the ball in our hands.”
Clark was listed as day-to-day after suffering an ankle injury on the final play of Thursday’s 84-83 loss at Kansas State. But she played almost 31 minutes Sunday.
”It was the normal swelling and bruising, but not a lot of pain,” Clark said. ”So I knew I was going to be able to go today, which was good, because I definitely did not want to sit out. ”
Clark was hit in the nose in the first quarter, suffering a cut that she said might require a stitch or two.
”The blow to the face wasn’t great either,” she said, laughing. ”But that’s great, it gets you ready for Big Ten basketball.”
Iowa led 60-56 with 5:13 to play before going on an 8-1 run, capped by a Clark jumper with 3:31 to go. The Hawkeyes’ biggest lead was 72-59 with 29 seconds left.
”Iowa is a difficult team to defend, especially when they make their runs,” Belmont coach Bart Brooks said. ”I thought we did a good job, for long stretches, keeping them out of their runs.”
Clark, who came into the game ranked seventh in the nation in scoring after leading it last season, was 10 of 18 from the field and helped the Hawkeyes keep the lead in the second half. Clark scored 15 consecutive points in the half, including a 48-second stretch in which she scored eight straight and had two steals as Iowa took a 55-44 lead.
”Some of the shots she made were shots you can’t do a lot about,” Brooks said. ”She’s just a dynamic player when she’s in a rhythm. I thought she got some good looks in rhythm that got her going. And when she’s feeling really good, that basket gets big for her.”
Monika Czinano had nine points and 10 rebounds for the Hawkeyes. McKenna Warnock had eight rebounds for Iowa, which had a 42-34 rebounding edge.
”I thought, 1 through 5, we did a good job of boxing out,” Czinano said. ”That’s been a big focal point for us. We have to just keep doing that.”
Nikki Baird had 13 points for Belmont (1-3). Sydni Harvey and Madison Bartley each had 11.
Iowa led 32-25 at halftime despite shooting 36% from the field. The Hawkeyes held the Bruins to just 31.4% shooting in the half, with Belmont missing 12 of its last 13 shots.
Bluder said the test the Bruins provided will help as the Hawkeyes get closer to Big Ten play, adding, ”there are some things we can go to the film tonight and learn from.”
The Hawkeyes struggled for the second consecutive Sunday against a Missouri Valley Conference team. They went to overtime against Drake last week before winning 92-86. Iowa needed to hold on in the second half against the Bruins, the preseason MVC favorites who were playing their second top-10 team in the last eight days.
Belmont: Plays Villanova in Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida, on Friday.
Iowa: Plays Oregon State in Phil Knight Legacy tournament in Portland, Oregon, on Friday.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25